Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


Healthy writing on the menu at Massey

Healthy writing on the menu at Massey

When it comes to health, ‘we are what we read’ may be just as important as ‘we are what we eat,’ according to Massey University health writing specialist Dr Raquel Harper.

Consumers are increasingly bombarded with complex, and at times contradictory, information about health across multiple media on a daily basis – via the popular press and their own Google searches. And if our health status is linked to our health literacy, then the quality of the information we rely on to make decisions is crucial, she says.

From weighing up if the Paleo, or Caveman, diet is the ultimate path to good health; or how to reduce cholesterol, have more energy, keep fit, avoid cancer, diabetes, heart disease and dementia etcetera – the inexorable flow of facts can leave the average punter feeling perplexed and overwhelmed.

“There’s so much information out there now – it’s hard to know what’s credible and what’s not,” says Dr Harper, whose research spans West Nile Virus to the role of electronic cigarettes.

A new paper in health writing she is launching this year at the Albany campus aims to address health consumers’ knowledge gaps and confusion. It trains humanities and science students in how to evaluate health research so they can then identify the key findings. They also learn how to translate scientific jargon into succinct, clear language so that readers can easily comprehend the implications.

Dr Harper was born in New Zealand and has spent most of her life in Europe and the United States. She began her career with a degree in physiotherapy at Western Washington University, followed by a Master of Science in Technical Communication, and a doctoral degree in Public Communication and Technology, both at Colorado State University.

“I’m really interested in helping the public understand health and science information; and helping health and science scholars understand how to better communicate to the public,” she says. “I started out in physiotherapy, but realised that what I really enjoyed was researching and writing about different health and science topics.”

Dr Harper has recently published her research on the creation of a comprehensive health literacy assessment tool for measuring health literacy in young adults, and has investigated the social acceptability of electronic smokeless cigarettes. She has also written health and science articles for

several publications, including Biophotonics International and the National Cancer Institute.

A perfect way to marry her twin interests in science and writing, she says health writing “is still a niche area. But the demand for good science and health writers is growing as patients’ voices and choices expand.”


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Welcome Home: Record High Migration Stokes 41-Year High Population Growth

New Zealand annual net migration hit a new high in October as more people arrived from than departed for Australia for the first time in more than 20 years. More>>


Citizens' Advice Bureau: Report Shows Desperate Housing Situation Throughout NZ

CAB's in-depth analysis of over 2000 client enquiries about emergency accommodation shows vulnerable families, pregnant women and children living in cars and garages, even after seeking assistance from the Ministry of Social Development and Housing New Zealand. More>>


Speaking For The Bees: Greens Call For Neonicotinoid Pesticide Ban

The National Government should ban the use of controversial pesticides called neonicotinoids after evidence has revealed that even at low doses they cause harm to bee populations, the Green Party said today. More>>


Science Awards: NZAS Celebrate NZ Scientific Achievements

The Marsden Medal is awarded for a lifetime of outstanding service to the cause or profession of science, in recognition of service rendered to the cause or profession of science in the widest connotation of the phrase. This year’s medal is awarded to Dr Mike Andrews. More>>


Court Rules: Affco 'Unlawfully' Locked Out Meat Workers

The note says the full court found for the plaintiffs, "that is that the defendant locked out the second plaintiffs unlawfully and that it breached s 32 of the Act by acting otherwise than in good faith towards the plaintiffs while collective bargaining was still going on." More>>


Get More From Scoop

Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news